The slowdown in the creation of new jobs that began last fall has continued into 2021, according to employment data released Friday by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Throughout the late spring and summer, the nation gained jobs back from the plunge in employment that swept the country after the pandemic’s outbreak a year ago. But since the fall, there has been little change in the nation’s employment picture. 

The most severe drop in employment continues to be in the nation’s largest cities. There were 6.7% fewer jobs (a loss of 6.1 million jobs) this January compared to January 2020 in metro areas of a million residents or more. The employment situation in these mega-cities has worsened slightly. In December, these same counties were down 6.3% compared to a year ago.

Rural counties have done a better job of holding on to their jobs throughout the past year. And that trend continued in the January 2021 jobs report. Rural counties had 3.1% fewer jobs this January compared to January 2020 (a negative 621,000 jobs). In December 2020, compared to the same month in 2019, rural employment was off by 3.2%. 

The jobs picture changes dramatically from one place to another, however. The map above will tell you how employment changed in every U.S. county between January 2020 and January 2121.The difference from one county to the next can be astounding. Los Angeles County, for example, has 685,000 fewer jobs this January than January a year ago. Nearly 10% of the job loss in the major metropolitan counties came from this single county.

The largest job losses in rural America were in two Hawaiian counties, Hawaii and Kauai. The most dramatic rural losses were in a cluster of counties surrounding Pecos in West Texas. Loving, Reeves and Ward counties all lost more than 30% of their jobs in the last year.

The job gains levelled out beginning in September. For the past five months, there has been little change in the job picture in either the nation’s largest cities or in rural counties. Rural counties continue to do a better job of holding on to jobs than the cities. But big cities, smaller metros, and rural America all appear stuck as 2021 begins.

The graph below compares the most recent month’s job figures to the same month one year ago. This provides a way to measure the relative strength of the job market each month, without having to adjust for seasonal differences in employment.

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